Smallholders, who owned nearly all of the livestock in the country, used their animals for draft power, manure, meat, and for future sale. Most livestock, including some 16 million goats and sheep, were simply tethered near the home or put out to pasture on communal grazing land. Beef cattle numbered over 10 million in 1989. The water buffalo, the most common draft animal, numbered 3.3 million. Several government-sponsored programs to increase livestock productivity through better extension services to livestock farmers and the expansion of ranching were in operation on the Outer Islands in the early 1990s. Since 1978 the government provided technical assistance to poultry farmers, particularly in or near urban areas. The government also made great efforts to improve the dissemination of superior breeds and modern medicines. Chickens were the fastest growing commercial livestock, numbering 508 million in 1989, an increase of 65 percent since 1984.
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